Things That Matter

Here’s How To Support California Farmworkers On Thanksgiving As They Continue To Work Through Bad Air Conditions

The wildfires in California have ravaged the state. An estimated 699 people remain missing, and so far 79 people have died. The fires are not yet contained. In Southern California, as of today, the Woolsey Fire that affected parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties is 96 percent contained. In Northern California, the Camp Fire, which is where more than 60 people died, is as of now, 70 percent contained.

The California wildfires have led to the worst air quality in the world affecting millions of people.

CREDIT: Facebook/Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)

The fires started between November 8 and 12. Farmworkers in the state have had no other choice but to continue working. Despite the unhealthy air conditions photos have circulated on social media of farmworkers harvesting produce as the smoky air lingers above them.

The United Farmworkers (UFW) has said that some farmworkers, that are protected by their union, have been told not to work because operations have shut down due to unhealthy air quality.

CREDIT: Facebook/Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)

“Some companies where farmworkers are protected by United Farm Workers contracts and that are affected by both the Camp and Woolsey fires have shut down operations when air quality got especially hazardous,” UFW said on Facebook.

However, because not all are protected under UFW, people have been helping out by distributing face masks to workers.

CREDIT: Facebook/Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)

“We set a time to meet once we started seeing the sky. The air was getting worse and worse,” Aracely Preciado, from the organization Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), told Pacific Standard magazine. “We sent out a call on social media, and students and other community members began showing up.”

A 22-year-old teacher also took it upon herself to pass out masks in Lodi, California.

CREDIT: Facebook/@FrankSomervilleKTVU/

“I don’t have the emotional capacity to go into detail about this just yet because I just got home and feel really tired, but today I spent my day in Lodi just 1 1/2 hrs away from San Jose to hand out masks to farmworkers in rural communities,” Paulina Cortes said, according to KTVU anchor Frank Somerville. “Find a way to give to a community who needs help. Thank you to everyone who is supporting me through donations. I drove through San Jose and all the way to Salinas to find the amount of masks I needed. This is important. The story here isn’t that I handed out masks, it’s that there are hundreds of people who are working in HAZARDOUS environments with NO protection. And no one even knows about it.”

Now that Thanksgiving is here, farmworkers need help and support more than ever.

As we figure out grocery lists and what to serve on Thanksgiving, UFW recommends purchasing from a selective group of goods in order to best support farmworkers.

It’s important to note that, according to the Washington Post, there’s 2 million to 3 million farmworkers in the country, but the UFW only represents 10,000 people.

Certain produce companies give UFW union members good worker benefits.

Celebrate the Holidays with UFW union products! The holiday season is about to start and that often means meals with…

Posted by UFW on Friday, November 16, 2018

Not all farmworkers have protections. The more people purchase from a select group of companies, the more inclined they will be to give back to their employees. They’ve made it really easy to know which companies to support. Click here for more information.

A group of school children have also reached out to farmworkers just to say “thank you for your hard work.”

CREDIT: facebook.com/unitedfarmworkers

UFW reports that elementary kids from Oregon and Washington made Thanksgiving cards to let their local farm workers “know how much they appreciate the hard work they put into producing the food that we will be enjoying this Thanksgiving!”

So if you can’t pass out masks or send out Thanksgiving thank you cards, here’s other options for you.

https://www.facebook.com/unitedfarmworkers/photos/pcb.10155935122091547/10155935120301547/?type=3&theater
CREDIT: UFW / Facebook

To help the UFW and their union members, click here.

For more information on the Campaign for Migrant Worker Justice and support the work they do, click here.

To educate yourself about the National Center for Farmworker Health, click here.

This Thanksgiving as we partake on amazing foods, let’s take time to reflect on where the food is coming from because who knows how much longer farmworkers will be around.


READ: Latino Businessman Allegedly Had Mexican Farmworkers Living in Buses And Paid Them Less Than What He Promised

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Farmworkers Are Putting Their Lives At Risk As They Continue To Work The Fields Despite Raging Wildfires

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Farmworkers Are Putting Their Lives At Risk As They Continue To Work The Fields Despite Raging Wildfires

@track607 / Twitter

Natural disasters bring the best in people, but often also the worst. The recent California fires have highlighted the deep inequalities in the state when it comes to socioeconomic status. While the media went head over heels over which celebrity had had to flee their home (pobrecitos!) or which vineyard had been set ablaze (wine, after all, is a luxury rather than a life sustaining product), few have stopped to think about the long lasting effects that the fires have had on the hundreds of workers (some of them undocumented) who keep the region afloat by farming, cleaning and organizing various production processes. 

Well, what you will read now will make your blood boil, as it reveals the deep divide between the haves and the have-nots in the world. 

As the region of Sonoma, California, is still burning residents have fled but farmers are still working away.

Credit: napavalley / Instagram

When fields burn, the air becomes a toxic mix of dust, ashes and harmful gases (imagine smoking 20 cigarettes in less than an hour and you will get an idea of how poisonous this melange can be). Well, residents of the area affected by the Kincade Fire were evacuated when air quality dropped. However, field workers were still expected to toil in the fields.  According to reports, some of these workers were still being bused to and from the fields even as the fires burnt. What people are willing to risk in the name of profit, eh? Just no! As reported by Eater San Francisco, Ariel Kelly, the CEO of community-based recovery effort Corazón Healdsburg, said: “we had about 90 farmworkers in our shelter leave on buses with their employer to go out and pick and then return back to the shelter”. 

The quality of the air was deemed as dangerous! But “they are only field workers”, right? This is totally outrageous! 

Credit: 10kbottles / Instagram

So what does this tell us? That someone, somewhere, decided that the lives of some actual human beings are more valuable than those of others? You bet that’s what happened. We just can’t understand how this thought, which is nothing short of a disgusting act of negligence, can cross someone’s mind. Of course, farmers are mostly migrants who feel, and are, in a vulnerable and marginalized position in which they can’t afford to fight back. Sonoma authorities said: “if somebody wants perfect health, they need to leave our community, because we have smoke here.”

Volunteers came to their aid…

Credit: Sonoma / Instagram

Regardless of the working agreement a company or farm has with a worker, some basic safety needs to be provided. If not legal (because some of these workers live in the dark shadows of an undocumented status that makes them vulnerable), this is at least an ethical mandate. But in the California fires it was volunteers who came to their aid. As reported by Eater San Francisco: “around 300 farm workers sought makeshift shelter in Cloverdale’s Citrus Fairgrounds. Area volunteers rushed to assist the workers and their families, many of whom had fled via car, with little more than the clothes on their backs”. This is such a stark image of negligence. But will someone ever be held accountable?

If they don’t work, they don’t get paid, so they risked their lives to survive (what a contradiction, eh?)

Credit: thelegionofbloomca / Instagram

According to Ariel Kelly from community-based recovery effort Corazón Healdsburg these workers were not even given masks to at least protect themselves from direct contact with the fumes. They are willing to work under these conditions because they get paid per shift and not showing up translates into not being paid, and possibly into not being chosen to work again. Because the extent of the damage caused by the fires remains uncertain, many of these workers want to get what could be the last few pays before a hiatus with no income. 

They are mostly uninsured and live hand to mouth. To top that, they are now unsure about how they will be able to provide for their families.

Credit: machvox/ Instagram

Maegan Ortiz, the executive director of el Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California, told The Guardian, “For a lot of day laborers and household workers, not having a day’s work often means the difference between houselessness or not.  Not having a day’s work is actually a big deal. Not working means not having money for medication for a chronic illness. Not working means not having money for food”. When we read stories like this we can’t help but wonder how on Earth there are still some that think that migrant workers are lazy or that they don’t contribute to the economy, when in fact they are giving everything to make a living. Even if it means risking their health. One thing is for certain. They deserve, and need, more protection. 

California Is Fighting Off 14 Fires Across The State Claiming Thousands Of Acres And Displacing Thousands Of People

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California Is Fighting Off 14 Fires Across The State Claiming Thousands Of Acres And Displacing Thousands Of People

gtfoulsham / Instagram

Sunny California is devastatingly ablaze. There are currently 14 fires burning up in California, according to CNN. It’s a travesty to witness the great state burning up with fires up along the coast and around mountains. While wildfires are nothing new to California, it’s never easy to see how much distraction the fires cause, and even worse how they affect the lives of millions of residents, workers, and the firefighters.

We know that California gets an unfair rap from outsiders because people downplay the fact that rich people’s homes are being destroyed, but that wrong assumption is nowhere near reality. The livelihood of minority workers is affected, animals are being left behind, and overworked firefighters are overwhelmed. What’s more unfortunate is that Santa Ana winds aren’t helping, and the fires are not slowing down. Here’s the latest.

A new fire began Halloween night and is called the Maria Fire, which is located in the Ventura County near the Santa Paula and Somis.

Credit: @vcfd_pio / Twitter

Reports indicate that 8,000 acres have been destroyed so far from the Maria Fire. Two structures have been lost in the fire, and another 1,800 more are under threat.

“The winds have died down, and the cold temperatures have reduced the fire’s ability to aggressively run downhill,” Ventura County Fire Capt. Brian McGrath said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Today, we’re going to see what the sun looks like on it and see what the normal onshore breeze is going to do for us.”

The Easy Fire, off of West Easy Street and West Los Angeles Avenue, in Simi Valley in Ventura County, is 80 percent contained.

 Credit: @WhitecliffCirc1 / Twitter

“Also all roads have been reopened with the expectation of Tierra Rejada Rd from HWY 23 to Mandan Pl is open to residents only. Please be careful as first responders are still working in the area,” officials said on Twitter. 

While firefighters were busy working attempting to clear the area, volunteers wanted to make sure they were being taken care of. So restaurant owner, Sadaf Nezhad, went out to feed them.

“Coming into Ventura County, everyone has been so welcoming, I feel apart of the community,” Nezhad told ABC News. “I did some research and called around and I found out the firefighters are camping at Conejo Creek Park, so that’s where we are going to take a big lunch to the firefighters.”

The Riverside County Fire Department said that the 46 Fire, located in  Riverside County, is 50 percent contained. 

Credit: @CBSLA / Twitter

As of now, 300 acres have been affected, and three homes were damaged because of the flames. CBS2 reports that at the height of the fire, 1,200 households and 3,600 residents were under mandatory. That evacuation has been lifted.

“Right now it’s burning in a wooded area, a lot of trees, a lot of heavy fuel,” CAL Fire Capt. Fernando Herrera told CBS2. “The winds themselves have been kind of moderate, kind of sporadic. There are times when the wind is very light, but we do have those gusts that come in, which poses a challenge because that causes the fire to be wind-driven.”

Other fires in California include the Hill Fire, Fullerton Fire, Kincade Fire, Tick Fire, and Tijuana Fire.

Credit: @abc7 / Twitter

Some of the fires have been burning for days or at least a week. Last week the Getty Fire forced thousands to evacuate after that fire shut down traffic on the 405. 

Many California residents are used to the fires, but this latest burst is having them considering leave the state. 

Danielle Bryant, who was affected by the Santa Rosa Fire two years ago said she and her husband were fixing up their house so they could sell it. Now the fires have put their construction behind schedule. 

“Everyone is stretched and stressed because our builder took on too many homes,” Bryant told NPR. “There are so many stories about people folding and leaving.” But Bryant wonders where they would be able to move to.  “What place doesn’t have fire? Iceland? Vast wide open spaces like the Mojave Desert?”

It seems like no area is safe from environmental destruction. 

Click here for information on the latest fires in your area. For details on how you can help volunteer, click here.

READ: As Wildfires Continue To Spread Across California Many Latino Workers Are Caught In The Midst Of Danger